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Word of bus changes isn't reaching Latino riders

Sun Staff

Edith Diaz is about to lose her ride to work, and she doesn't even know it.

The Salvadoran native takes the No. 17 bus most days from the Patapsco light rail stop to her job at a hotel near . Like many Latino riders on the No. 17 this week, she was unaware that state officials propose to scale back the service.

The new route would make fewer stops and would operate only at night, when the light rail isn't running. That would make it hard for people like Diaz to get to work in the morning.

"That would be very bad," said Diaz, 28. "When you don't have a car, the bus is the only way."

Hearings about the proposed route changes will begin next week, and state workers have put informational placards in English aboard buses and near stops. The Maryland Transit Administration has also prepared a card in Spanish, said operations director Beth Kreider, but none was in sight when a Sun reporter rode the bus Tuesday.

Dan Pontious, the regional policy director for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association, said he believes riders of all backgrounds are not informed about next week's hearings.

"We are concerned the word may not be getting out to riders," he said. "These placards don't seem to be doing the job."

MTA officials said yesterday that the cards may have gotten to some buses sooner than others, but should be widely available now. "We've been very aggressive in our outreach plan," said Richard Scher, an MTA spokesman.

A lack of information appeared to be widespread on the No. 17 Tuesday morning. About 20 Latinos were taking the bus south toward BWI. Few could read or speak English well, and all said they were unaware of any meetings about possible route changes.

"Nobody has said anything to us," said Eduardo Saenz, a native of Mexico.

Saenz, 34, said he lives in Fells Point and pays someone $10 a week to take him to the light rail stop every morning to catch the bus. If the No. 17 did not run, he said, he would probably have to pay someone even more to drive him all the way to work.

"Without this bus, life would be very hard," he said.

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